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Tuesday, September 7, 1999

Smokey Briggs


By Smokey Briggs

Posse Comitatus



Another federal entity has been caught in a lie.

After six years of calling anyone that dared question its handling of the Branch Davidian siege a crackpot, evidence has now been unearthed that clearly shows the FBI lied about the use of incendiary tear gas rounds during the final day of the siege.

Some of this new evidence casts doubt on more than just the use of incendiary tear gas rounds as well.  One such questionable area is how military forces were used during the siege.  News reports are suggesting that U.S. Army troops may have been engaged in more than just a coaching role during the siege.

Use of federal military troops on domestic soil is illegal. The Posse Comitatus Act has been a part of federal law since 1878. Today, the law can be found in the United States Code in volume 18, section 1385. Translated literally from the Latin "posse comitatus" means the power or force of a country.

In American law the "posse comitatus" is generally the entire population of the county over the age of 15 which a sheriff can call to his assistance in such circumstances as the pursuit of a felon. The Posse Comitatus Act was passed by Congress in response to abuses of civilians by Yankee troops during the occupation of the Confederacy after the Civil War. The Act reflects the concern that the use of federal troops to keep civil peace poses a serious danger to individual freedom and liberty.

This is an old idea, long predating our rebellion from British rule. And, in short, it outlaws the use of federal troops on American soil and against American citizens. If more previously hidden evidence comes to the surface that federal troops had an active role at the Waco siege, then someone needs to be prosecuted for this clear violation of federal law.

On a more general basis, as we continue to wage our war on drugs and crime, we should be careful that in our desire to win we don't become as lawless as the criminals we fight. The use of U. S. Army soldiers in direct roles may be tempting to those wishing to beef up law enforcement without spending more tax dollars, but it is against the law.

Before we do this, we need to repeal the Posse Comitatus Act. And before we repeal this Act, we need to take a long look at the reasons it was enacted. We may not be willing to do with out the important protections it provides, no matter the short-term utility of employing regular military forces against drug-runners and the like.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Smokey Briggs is the editor and publisher of the Pecos Enterprise whose column appears on Tuesdays. He can be e-mailed at

Your View

Right to pray not found in constitution

I know I will probably get some flack for stating my opinion because I've been there, done that! Nevertheless, I feel an injustice has been done.

I am disappointed in our school administration for not taking a firmer stand on America's freedoms. I do not advocate breaking the law, but I do think we answer to a higher authority.

What does it say to youth of Pecos when other towns like Andrews, Midland, Ft. Stockton, etc. have said we will have prayer at our sports functions but our school administration says can't because we might find ourselves in court?

There is nowhere in our constitution that it says we may not pray at public events. This is another one of those tactics of those who would take away religious freedoms and we're losing our rights because we won't stand up and say, "This is my right and my privilege to pray whenever and wherever I choose to do so."


Pecos, Tx.

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